Most Viewed, VISAs
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Weak Indian Passport: Making Our Travel Life Tougher Everyday!

Indian Passport: You Weak, Useless Thing!

After living in the United Kingdoms for a few years, travelling a bit of the world, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it is: being an Indian is a proud thing. People around the world like Indians, respect Indians and are always eager to know more about Indians.

While I was travelling in Southeast Asia last year, there were so many instances which made it so much easier for me to connect with others – locals and travellers alike – as I told them I’m from India. Bollywood and Yoga made my identity even more interesting.

But feeling cooler and wanted is one thing, and feeling empowered is the other. Sure my identity, as an Indian made me feel good, perhaps even respectful, but it did not make me feel empowered – not as long as I held a Navy Blue coloured passport saying ‘Republic of India’.

Indian Passport Makes Me Feel Weak, Forget About Being Empowered

There’s no denying the fact that Indian passport is embarrassingly weak – given our country is considered as one of the leading economic powers in the world. From Chinese to Americans to Russians, everyone considers India an important state to trade with, but when it comes to welcoming its members they all take a step back. I won’t blame them for this antagonistic behaviour though, our former government’s sloppiness towards foreign relations has, in fact, much to do with it. But let’s not get into politics and start debating about our helplessness.

Before I say anything further, let’s take a look at the following two maps… the grey part represents the part of the world (or the countries) where I, being an Indian passport holder, cannot access without applying for a VISA in the respective state’s embassy (and even most of the other colourful countries, as shown in the map, only offer a disappointing VISA-on-arrival, with a travel time of less than 15 days):

Now let’s compare it with someone who holds the passport for the Great Britain (consider the top 50 strong passport holding nations having an almost similar picture):

 Pretty disgraceful, Indian passport is, right?

And in case you thought I compared India with the UK or other such strong nations, let me tell you that most of the ranking systems consider Indian passport among the few least powerful passports in the world, and we rank below countries like Kazakhstan, Namibia, Kenya, Uganda, and even Cambodia and Bhutan – now that’s a real shame!

Anyway, my point here is not to make any false generalizations or make you look down upon our national identity as Indians. All I’m saying is that our weak passport curbs us from travelling and makes our life tougher as a global citizen.

A Weak Passport Makes You Bleed Extra Money

Last year, while I was backpacking across Southeast Asia, I ended up paying a few thousand Rupees extra because of my passport. How? I wanted to travel from Thailand to Cambodia using the land transport, but only to make sure that my VISA on Arrival doesn’t get rejected, I’d booked an exit flight (from Thailand to Cambodia). Where the road transport would have cost me about 1,200 Rupees, the flight cost 5,500. A loss of more than 4,000 Rupees without any positive outcome.

I moreover wanted to visit Malaysia, from Thailand, but that again would have cost an extra flight because, despite an open border, Indians are NOT ALLOWED to enter into Malaysia by land. Most of the Europeans and other strong passport holders can however do that.

Indians, moreover, can’t apply for VISAs to most of the countries if they are not physically present in India. For example, if you’re in the US and wanted to apply for a Thai Visa, you’re required to first return to India, kill at least 15 days in the country for applying the Visa and then fly to Thailand (unless you’ve a few good reasons, and backpacking is definitely isn’t one of them!) whereas British, German, French and god knows how many other nationalities can fly straight from the US to Thailand to Australia and wherever else they wish to.

Now one thing is that Indians already couldn’t travel much because of their disappointing salaries. And if somehow they manage to save some money and plan travelling abroad, their passport makes things tougher for them to the next level.

Why It’s Tough To Find Indian Backpackers Abroad

During my last couple of years of a nomadic life, I’ve met an unaccountable number of non-Indian backpackers living a peripatetic lifestyle – moving from country to country and not caring about money as much as experience. They jump borders more easily and frequently than we as Indians jump traffic lights. Travelling abroad, for us, has always remained a big deal. Because even when a visa is possible for us, getting it is far from simple.

And that’s why it’s so tough to spot an Indian face lugging a heavy rucksack, jumping one country to another – because they know that such a lifestyle isn’t possible for them.

I mean even if you look at the many Indian travel bloggers today, you won’t find a single freestyle backpacker blogger who writes about cheap backpacking tips on travelling abroad. Why? Because they can’t! If they need a VISA, anywhere outside a few sillier countries like Mauritius or Bali, they’re required to show a complete end-to-end itinerary. This is moreover a pre-requisite for countries like Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and other such that offer a VISA ON ARRIVAL option, and some of us boast that Indians can visit these countries as and WHEN they want. NO! We Can’t! Because if we are pre-booking our itinerary, pre-booking all our hotels and transportation before we even land there, the entire idea of backpacking is already lost somewhere in oblivion.

Applying For A VISA Is Like Applying For A New Birth Certificate

I was recently into the process of applying for a Schengen VISA and it turned out that other than a return flight, and pre-booked accommodation, I was also required to provide the proof(s) of my means of transportation inside Europe. The only thing I was free to do was eat and shit where I wanted, everything else had to have a reason. No wonder, getting VISAs for Indian is a tough nut to crack.

For a tourist visa application to even approach success, I need to present bank statements, letters of recommendation and introduction, return tickets, hotel bookings, proof of employment and even tax records. I have to make every possible move (even use some creativity) to convince the visa officer, beyond all reasonable doubt, that I’m planning on going home at the end of my stay.

As a freelance writer, my income is not regular, I don’t have a place of work, and I don’t even have a two-week holiday block. And because my income was not taxable last year, I clearly don’t have a safety net now. Now that I’ve applied for the VISA, I have a certain amount of fear all the time, until I get my passport back – either accepted or accepted (I’m afraid of saying the other word)!

But I also wish to see the world. My heart also desires to explore more countries, and just as much as a German’s or a Korean’s. But alas!, I’m an Indian and because my passport is a bitch, I’ve to take it upon me as a lifelong curse!

Are you an Indian passport holder too? Let’s share our experiences in the comments below!

Filed under: Most Viewed, VISAs

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Shortly after my first real nine-to-five job, I left that lifestyle behind, and with it, everything that didn't fit in my backpack. I've learned that this world is too big (and too interesting!) to stay in one place. I believe that with a little courage and inspiration, everyone has the power to follow their dreams. Just as I've followed mine!

19 Comments

  1. One factor that you’ve not mentioned is reciprocity. India makes it very hard for citizens of other countries to obtain a visa to visit India, so in some cases that’s the reason other countries apply the same conditions to Indians wanting to visit their country. I hold British and Australian passports and have traveled to 96 countries, but I’ve given up traveling to India now (as much as I like the country) because it is so difficult obtaining a visa. The visa application form is the longest in the world and the paperwork and bureaucracy involved in the application process is something out of the middle ages. For me, living as an expat in Asia, I would have to devote 2-3 days of my time to obtain an Indian visa. And yet I can obtain a visa online for a communist country like Vietnam in 5 minutes. If India didn’t make it so hard for other nationalities to visit, then other countries might make it easier for Indians to visit.

  2. Anonymous says

    i think the main reason for weak passport is population and illegal things indians do in other countries sorry but its true and if you notice chinese passport is also weak because of huge population …and there is no hope that we will have more Visa free countries in the future… 🙁

  3. gautz says

    Which is why you only mostly find white people bag packing places, because the lucky idiots have it way easier than us just for being born in a certain country. Us brown people are stuck with the extra stress . Modi needs to do something about it , what is the point of our high GDP economy ranking if something so trivial like this isn’t improving our lives

  4. I stumbled across your blog and I’m in love with what you wrote. I’m 21 years old and I’ve backpacked across East African islands and Australia. I didn’t have to submit itinerary or anything because I had an internship to do in both places. But I do want to travel the world and sometimes, it hurts so bad when my Europeans friends decide over weekend that they want to go to Thailand next month. It’s very unfair that it doesn’t matter how much traveling means to a person as much as their passport does. Logically, I could try going to Canada and get citizenship but I would probably be 30 years old by then. What’s the point of backpacking after that because as you know you tend to only find people under 25 in backpacking hostels mostly. Sometimes, I mentally cry thinking about this. The only way to deal with this is to hope to be an European next birth. I do want to work in an Irish pub, be a part of a singing group in Prague, be a waitress in Bourdeux, sell flowers near alps; but I can’t do any of this in this birth. I regret my citizenship more than anything else. I don’t even feel like I belong here. I mean, there’s no one encouraging the fact that I’m a solo woman traveller. If anything, they tell me that I can work, marry and go on honeymoons to the alps with my husband. God forbid, I want to punch them in the face. I wish I could be born again.

  5. Ugh…. I can’t begin to tell you how often I’ve been taken over by the impulse to just fling my stupid passport off to sea lol. It’s especially terrible when you’re traveling with people from other countries and realise that you can’t go places as easily as them. It’s the worst.

    But great blog, really funny!

    • Oh tell me about it brother. If there’s one thing I hate about being an Indian it’s owning this worthless booklet. Everything else works fine with me. And then there are people who say “oh we have 30 or 40+ countries offering us visa on arrival or without visa travel” totally ignorant to the fact that most of them are countries smaller the size of New Delhi. I mean I won’t even call Fiji a country, would you? haha!

  6. Sanjay says

    Ugh. I too hate the fact that the Indian passport is very weak. I’ve only travelled to Singapore and getting the visa was such a hassle. I plan to travel in the coming years, but I’m highly contemplating to move to a country that has a strong passport yet relaxed immigration rules (like Canada), become a citizen of that country and then travel around the world with that country’s passport. Of course, it’ll be long time before I travel the world on the new passport but at least I’ll get to explore the country I’ll be staying in.
    Sounds logical. 😛

  7. I deeply regret all the time, when i travel, even though some of the countries allow visa on arrival for Indian, but still you have to face several questions before granting it .

    Dot size countries like, Singapore doesn’t allow Indian to visit their country.

    Why should we go and hide in their god damn place. or stay illegally in their country.

    We do have self respect, career,

    I am done with applying for VISA. i rather visit some of the places in India itself.

    • I can feel the frustration Vijaya. A strong passport guarantees freedom of movement. A strong passport guarantees self-development 🙁

  8. Thanks for sharing this. I have had so many experiences regarding the Indian passport and visas. On the verge of finishing my nine months travel in South America. Planning to update my page soon with how I was rejected a columbian visa and how I was returned back from the border of Chile into Bolivia recently. And much more 🙂

    My page if it interests you,
    http://www.masalaomelette.com/

    Keep travelling and keep sharing. That’s the best we can do. And well said. Being from India raise so much interest specially as there are not many of us travelling, or backpacking. The food, culture, religion, yoga, bollywood, eyes, everything raises so much interest.

    Wish you good travels.
    Love,
    Priyanka

  9. “Applying For A VISA Is Like Applying For A New Birth Certificate” LOL … So so true and I understand your frustration. I feel cursed too. Travelling becomes a job and stressful when there are so many rules and processes involved. Most of the times I just give up half way through planning especially when I think about going through the gruelling VISA applications / interviews. What I don’t understand is different countries have different rules. For example: Schengen tourist VISA is valid only for three months while the US tourist VISA is valid for 10 years and the same fee. And we have to get VISA on arrival even when we visit SAARC counties like Sri Lanka. Phew!

    I’m hoping Modi will bring a change too. We want achche din for travellers 😉

    • “even when we visit SAARC counties like Sri Lanka. Phew!” haha. I hope people from Sri Lanka don’t read it, else it might end into a hate-war. Kidding. And yea, I have high hopes from Modi too. I’ll help the country by bringing in money from Google adsense. Help me!! haha!

  10. Srinivas N says

    hi Dev,

    As a backpacker, I can clearly see what you are saying. Everything you say is true.
    Maybe, we must bring this to Mr. Modi’s attention, in a strong way and urge him to act on this immediately.

    India can’t hope to be a world power, if their well-meaning citizens are held back from traveling, by a set of cumbersome, discriminatory and archaic rules

    Srinivas

  11. Until our population stabilizes, and everyone has a decent shot at employment, it will continue to be the weakest.

  12. I totally agree. Argh! I often feel very frustrated about the Indian passport being so weak when it comes to the countries we cannot travel to without a visa. I live in the US, and its so hard to plan a trip with my American friends sometimes – as they can practically visit a hell lot of places with the American passport and I cannot. Somehow I am always the one stuck applying for a visa which takes ages. I genuinely believe that Indians already add and can add – a lot of money to tourism of foreign economies only if it was just a bit easier for us. 🙁 Nice article! Very good read!

  13. Hi,

    Thanks for sharing this honestly without sugarcoating anything. I have faced this issue too. I just started traveling and I like to stay in a country for few months. In Thailand after 2 months, when I went to extend my visa for a month, while everyone got 30 days extension, I got 7 days extension and was charged the same amount of money (Rs. 4,000).

    • Shmoly! This blue thingy is playing with our dignity and emotions! Worse is, every time you apply for a VISA, you need to show your entire itinerary (from hotel booking to flights to other transport), this means that INDIANS are LITERALLY BANNED to BACKPACK at their will, unlike Europeans and other strong passport holders.

    • Hope so. and if there’s a reason why I’m going to vote for Modi, until my or his demise, it’s this! He’s my hero! haha!

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